The MiB Health Spa week: Diagnosis, Treatment and Convalescence.
A Trilogy of Gig Reviews – The Stranglers March On Tour – Brighton, Guildford, London.
Incorporating Black Friday – Straighten Out at The Hope and Anchor.
Guest Starring – The Rezillos and The Membranes.
Apologies for the delay in transmission but being an active participant in The Great Review Writers Strike of 2015 rendered timely communication impossible. Now both sides have reached an amicable agreement things are slowly starting to return to normal. I had considered going back in time and transmitting before the strike had begun but the Department of Temporal Investigation caught wind and soon put paid to that with their concerns of Anomalies and Spoilers. So here it is…
Chapter 1 – Diagnosis.
Gig Review – The Stranglers – Brighton Dome 3rd March 2015.
SiB arrived early to accompany me to the much needed MiB Health Spa week, kicking off with a blast of the healing Salt Air of Brighton (London by The Sea Indeed!). After catching up with a few FiBs we made our way inside the spacious capacious acoustically gracious Dome. Having just awoken from hibernation the weary bones were happy to settle for a seat behind the sound engineers for tonight’s proceedings.
We were in good time to catch most of the set of Support act The Rezillos, about whom we’d heard many good things.
This turned out to be the truth! New and Old material sat side by side most comfortably in a splendid performance of fine musicianship and showmanship. And fortunately I didn’t miss the superb ‘Good Sculptures’. I’m looking forward to hearing more of The Rezillos.
And the clock struck nine as the marching drums signalled the imminent arrival of The Men in Black. A superb Oom Pa Pa rendition of Waltzinblack followed and before we knew what had hit us the band arrived on stage and kicked off with the superbly undulating brevity of Longships (never before played live by the band if I’m not mistaken…) which of course segued into The Raven. Up next another surprise Baz donned another guitar and we were treated to the fine pop tones of Nice in Nice with JJ nailing the breathy vocal.
This is the first time I’ve caught the opening night of a Stranglers tour and the sense of uncertainty added to the magic of the proceedings. The stage set was dressed in combat webbing with a huge drape of this hanging behind the band and this was accompanied by a very effective light show. From my aforementioned vantage point both the visual and sonic aspects of The Stranglers performance tonight were spot on!
A blistering Grip next followed by I’ve Been Wild which holds its own nicely with a great vocal from Baz.
It must be said that tonight’s set contains some very brave selections/omissions. Incorporating as it does a healthy mix of crowd pleasers and hits plus a decent selection of obscurities to satisfy the more hard-core fans.
Jaw dropping time as the band break into the eerily creepy oddness that is Four Horsemen with its superb central symmetrical rhythmic arc, Dave’s wonderful vocals and the flawless rendition from all four instrumentalists.
No let up as they set to stun and launch straight into The Man They Love To Hate. Jim’s drums sound mighty on this like he’s going to thump them through the floor! Brilliant!
You’d be forgiven for thinking this was the end of the tour rather than the beginning as they sound so tight and spot on tonight. Clearly they’ve been rehearsing hard and it’s paid off!
The band delivers the modern classic Relentless then Jim exits which can mean only one thing – Jet Black joins the stage to a warm reception from the delighted masses. The brilliant Baroque Bordello is followed by uber crowd pleasers Golden Brown and Always the Sun. The Jet set is then completed by the masterpiece that is Genetix with its deliciously intertwined rhythms and melodies, another excellent Dave vocal and JJ’s exquisite bass solo.
It must be said that while the sound is excellent throughout, there is noticeable drop in volume levels for the Jet set, which is accentuated again as Jim re-joins for Time To Die and the volume appears to increase.
More pleasant surprises next with the not often aired (and magnificent) Ice. Then, I Feel Like A Wog delivered with off the scale intensity. Before the pace drops for a brace of hits – Skin Deep and Peaches.
Tonight Giants is represented solely by Time Was Once On My Side with its super ska-ified ending. Duchess then gives us our sixth title from tonight’s best represented album The Raven.
Lost Control makes way for the awesome menace of Curfew which in turn ramps up nicely for Down In The Sewer.
And they’re gone!
And they’re Back!
Walk on by is executed deftly with the ceaseless bass and drums creating the foundation for the soaring solos from Dave and Baz. Stunning!
Then No More Heroes and they’re gone!
I head off for an early night as I’m booked in for a seaweed treatment and some trepanation the following morning.
Chapter 2 – Treatment.
Gig Review – The Stranglers – Guildford G-live 5th March 2015.
So Thursday rolls around and this Spa week is really having an effect, especially the trepanning – the Demons have been purged and the recovery continues…
Up next is a day in the Surrey countryside.
I make my way to G-live Guildford and new parking regulations are in place since I was last here in 2013; the single yellow I used to park on is now a double and all nearby singles have been changed from 6pm to 9pm cut-off. I’m left with little choice but to try the venues pay and display car park, which to the relief of my purse strings, costs the princely sum of a Knicker (Five times less than NCP Brighton on Tues (I think)). All of which leaves me worrying that I’d briefed SiB that he could park on the single that’s now a double. I duly bell him and NiB (Nephew in Black) answers to say they’re driving around Guildford in ever decreasing circles, eventually they land in the centre not too far off target. In the meantime I contact Guildford Lil and inform her of our arrival. And before too long we’re all standing at the bar (after negotiating the drunken staircase) having a natter and catch up with the FiB. Further evidence of the healing power of The MiB spa week comes as Baglady comments on my apparent recovery after looking ‘Dead’ in Brighton!
We venture inside to catch The Rezillos, again locating ourselves at the rear centre near the sound desk.
The Rezillos are on form and put in a brilliant performance in spite of sound issues with sporadic feedback.
New and old material sit comfortably side by side and are received well by the crowd who are appreciative if a little pedestrian.
Again Nine o’clock rolls around and Lil and I make our way to the front to catch the MiB.
Kicking off in the same vein as Brighton the band seem bright eyed and bushy tailed, they’re up for it and the crowd is up for it! A stonking Straighten Out takes the place of Nice in Nice which is relocated to later in the set tonight (A clever change which works nicely. Allowing the set to start with more immediacy and subsequently giving more contrast/space later on).
Four Horsemen is once more stunning but the sound gremlins begin to appear during The Man They Love To Hate as JJ’s Bass echo effect is not coming through the mix.
The Master arrives for the Jet Set to much appreciation (mine included) and I note once more the apparent dip in sound levels, or maybe I am imagining this!?
After The Jet Set the Jim Set continues pretty much as last night excepting the previously noted SO/NiN shuffle and the inclusion of classic Hanging Around at the expense of Walk on By.
Guildford once again proves to be a gig of many contrasts. In fact, it’s a strange situation here tonight; as the boys continue playing for all they’re worth and interacting with the crowd, the gremlins are clearly manifesting themselves, establishing a hold on the group(s) consciousness. Concerned glances at monitors and equipment and across the stage to each other and the sound engineers begin to increase but the crowd continue to lap it up in their own polite Surrey Manner.
Eventually it’s all too much as the keyboards/monitors appear to fail completely during Down in The Sewer and the band curtail the encore with the exclusion of No More Heroes.
All in all a mixed bag of a gig with the band and crowd both up for it but the gremlins who having been fed and watered, were having none of it and eventually wrought havoc on the technology.
Chapter 3 – Convalescence.
Black Friday Part 1
Gig Review – Straighten Out – Hope and Anchor Islington 6th March 2015
My convalescence continues as I opt to head for the Sunny climes of Highbury and Islington for a Straighten Out Sauna therapy. Arriving early I meet up with SiB, NiB and Karl. Before long I encounter Straightenout, Steeplejackinblack, badvlad, bebop, Bjorn, Buster, Bunny, Bloggs&Lou, Apollo, TBC, The Munros in Black, Mully, Guildford Lil, Kathinboots and many many more. In a trice the place is teeming and Legendary Finchley Boys the Hillier Brothers hold court while the black clad masses soak up some sunshine, nicotine and various other forms of pollution both voluntary and involuntary.
We squeeze into the tiny basement and Waltzinblack signals the arrival of Straightenout who proceed to give a knockout performance covering the whole of the X-Certs album in track order.
In addition we get some choice cuts from The Raven including Longships/The Raven, Shah Shah A Go Go (It’d be great if The Stranglers revived this one for live work too!) and Genetix.
It can’t really be overstated how fantastic it is to hear authentic MK1 Stranglers material at this legendary venue! The crowd laps it up with a conviviality and bonhomie unique to the FiB. Before we know it the band concludes this matinee performance with Tank and we file out of the black hole blinking back into the sunny London spring like afternoon. Where we enjoy a few more drinks and natters before slowly heading off in dribs and drabs for Camden/Chalk Farm.
Black Friday Part 2
Gig Review – The Stranglers – Roundhouse Camden 6th March 2015
Plus guests: The Rezillos and The Membranes.
All of this Spa therapy can work up an appetite, so we head off in search of the rejuvenating nourishment known to be found at the Kebab shop next to Camden Tube station. Suitably revived we find ourselves at The Worlds End among a horde of FiB too numerous to mention!
I signal my intent to catch The Membranes set and hence the need to arrive in good time for their performance. A few of us head up Camden High St toward Chalk Farm. Also, I’ve ended up with a spare ticket to this sell-out performance and would like to find a suitable home for it before the show. We scour the nearby pubs in search for a recipient of my spare ticket but to no avail. I’m resolute that I’d rather tear it up than sell it to a tout!
I head to the Roundhouse box office to leave Antro’s ticket there for him, as he will be joining us later tonight. While there I pick up some tickets for The Damned D-day gig. I overhear a chap enquiring with the box office about returning an unwanted ticket. To which the reply was something like “sorry we can’t take any tickets back but that couple over there might be waiting to see if anyone has any spares”. Duly tipped off said chap and myself then proceed to donate our spare tickets to the wonder and surprise of this couple who have ventured ticketless from the continent (couldn’t place their accents) for tonight’s show.
We make our way inside and venture to the front to catch The Membranes set. Drummer Rob Haynes is suitably dressed for the occasion in Jet Black Attire.
Having seen Goldblade a few times I was quite keen to catch The Membranes set and was not disappointed. Their dual guitar attack coupled with Rob’s skin bashing and frontman John Robb’s hyperactive stage presence (and agile bass moves) make for a very entertaining show.
I enjoyed the more atmospheric numbers immensely and definitely hope to see them again. Unfortunately time-constraints meant no chance of an encore in spite of demand and willingness.
Up next are The Rezillos who once more deliver a fine set of their trademark brand of New Wave Punky Poppiness.
It’s infectious and it’s hard to resist and tonight’s rapidly expanding crowd agree as the band go down a storm.
Then the time is Nine and the time is nigh…
The March On Waltzinblack heralds the arrival of The Stranglers who come on to a rapturous reception from the capacity crowd and they don’t miss a beat. Having shrugged off the Gremlins from the previous night, tonight’s sound is brilliant, the best I’ve ever heard in The Roundhouse!
Through Longships and The Raven, on to Straighten Out, Grip and I’ve Been Wild the set builds then gives way to the superb Four Horsemen and The Man They Love To Hate which is followed up by Relentless.
Then it’s the Jet Set with Baroque Bordello, Golden Brown (which affords me a little boogie with Ravenette), Always The Sun and Genetix rounding out tonights Masterclass. Again with perceived volume drop!
Baz announces Jet has gone off for a cup of Cocoa and it’s back to the Jim Set with Time To Die. A guitar change for Baz for Nice in Nice then back to the Tele for the sublime Ice. The crowd laps up an energetic I Fell Like a Log (wf) and they keep lapping for Skin Deep and Peaches. Time Was Once on My Side is once more the only song representing Giants, while Lost Control is tonight’s second offering from Norfolk Coast.
A brace of menacing classics round out the main set in the shape of Curfew and Down in The Sewer both deftly delivered and razor sharp.
After the crowd holler, whoop and whistle their appreciation the band return for an encore consisting of Nice and Sleazy and Hanging Around (Cue Bazzainblack going over the top…).
A brief respite and they’re back for a second encore and the final number of the night as the whole house responds to No More Heroes.
And it’s all over.
What a superb week!
If you find that the pressures of modern living become over-burdensome or are tired and run down or if you just fancy treating yourself – Do yourself a favour and go along to one of the patented MiB Health Spa Weeks.
It’ll do you the world of good!
Available from all good retailers.
Get ‘em while the getting’s good!
Apologies for Errors and Omissions.
Photography Courtesy of Andy Miller
Rob Haynes Photo – EiTC.